More than 400 RV dealers, manufacturers and campground operators gathered on Prince Edward Island Oct. 27-30 for the third biennial Canadian RV and Camping Convention, focusing on ways to enhance the camping and RV experience.
“I think both Canada and the U.S. are realizing that we need to address these issues,” said Eleonore Hamm, executive vice president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of Canada (RVDA Canada). “There are areas that need improvement at all levels.”
The convention, held at the Delta Prince Edward Hotel in Charlottetown, included top officials of RVDA Canada, the Canadian Recreational Vehicle Association (CRVA) and Campgrounds Campings Canada (CCC). The representatives discussed specific actions that each association has taken to improve the RVing experience, while also outlining remaining concerns and areas where additional improvements are needed.
“The concept of the convention,” Hamm said, “is to bring the three segments of the industry together. You’ve got a chance for the three segments to really highlight areas of concern and where the different segments can work together.”
The meeting, the third of its kind since 2001, included a progress report from the various segments of the Canadian RV industry regarding implementation of a strategic plan established at the 2003 meeting in Calgary, Alberta. Key issues and challenges for the industry were initially identified in 2001 when the three associations met in Quebec City.
While Hamm declined to release the progress report, RVDA Canada President Ron Hall told industry officials attending the Prince Edward Island convention that the Canadian RV industry has fallen short of its goal to achieve a 90% customer satisfaction rate with their overall RV experience.
On a positive note, however, Hall said that considerable progress has been made improving the industry’s efforts to improve dealer training and recruitment. He noted the 2003 introduction of the RV Learning Center as well as the Distance Learning Network.
The web-based training helps technicians become more efficient and prepares them for the RV service technician exam, he said.
Hall said the Canadian RV industry has established a comprehensive website for people seeking careers in the industry.
According to Hall, progress has also been made on the government relations front.
“For the RVDA of Canada,” Hall said, “the objective is to raise the dealers’ profile with the government and to ensure that RV dealers are understood to be a key player in the Canadian economy. Long term, this will allow RVDA to better protect dealers’ interests in Ottawa.”
This year’s convention included a keynote address by Brian Tobin, one of Canada’s best-known political figures, having previously served as premier of Newfoundland and minister of industry at the federal level, where he promoted the idea that research and innovation are the keys to long-term success for Canadian business.
Also appearing as a keynote speaker was Paul Cummings, a motivational speaker and author of “Lessons at the Fence Post: Volume One,” “Lessons at the Fence Post: Volume Two,” as well as DVD training program titled, “Developing a Personal Leadership Philosophy.”
The convention also included a presentation by the editor of Camping Caravanning Magazine, which is published by an RV enthusiasts group in Quebec called the Fédération Québécoise de Camping et de Caravanning (FQCC), the largest association of French-speaking campers in North America.
In addition, attendees participated in numerous educational seminars, including a presentation on the RV Learning Center by Pamela Colman, newly elected chief, and Mike Molino, the longtime president of Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) in Fairfax, Va.
Canada has been a strong supporter of the Learning Center, contributing $100,000 Canadian dollars to the educational program, said Phil Ingrassia, RVDA vice president for communications. He added that more than 100 Canadian RV dealers attended RVDA’s International Convention and Expo Sept. 27 – 30 in Las Vegas, Nev.
The next Canadian RV and Camping Convention will be held in Ottawa in 2007.